Lawyers represent individuals and organizations in a court of law. They also advise on legal issues and disputes. From providing legal advice to representing clients in courts, lawyers’ duties vary but needless to say that these professionals are crucial in the settlement of disputes.The field of law is broad and lawyers have the option of specializing in a particular area of law such as  business law, property law, human rights law, etc.  Law as a career can be challenging yet exciting.  It can be a great career choice for individuals who want to contribute to the society, help people or organizations, and obtain justice in the court of law.

How to Become a Lawyer

How to Become a Lawyer

The academic route to becoming a lawyer is the same throughout the nation. It usually takes 7 years (post high school education) to become eligible for a state’s bar examination.  Students must attend a law school and then get a license to practice in their state. The requirements to become a lawyer have been described below:

Get an undergraduate degree

Once you have decided on becoming a lawyer, you must enroll in a four-year undergraduate program.  There are no defined majors for getting into a law school. You can opt for a bachelor’s degree in any field that fits your interest and may help you further in your pursuit of legal studies. Some recommended majors are:

  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • English
  • Business Administration
  • Economics
  • History
  • Criminal Justice

A bachelor degree will broaden your skill set and knowledge base. This will help you prepare for advanced level legal studies ahead. Students can also opt for online undergraduate programs.

Take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test)

This is a standardized admission test that is designed to assess a candidate’s verbal reasoning, reading comprehension, and logical proficiency. The test is conducted by the Law School Admission Council, four times a year. Most law schools select candidates based upon their LSAT scores, making it an important requirement for admission. Please keep in mind that schools accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA) will require applicants to have taken this test.

Enroll in a law program

Most states require prospective lawyers to have a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree.  This is the primary law degree that will qualify an individual to take a state bar licensing examination. The program is offered by a number of law schools throughout the nation. It can take 2-3 years to earn this degree.

Juris Doctor program objectives

A Juris Doctor degree is designed to help students develop legal skills and abilities for a career ahead. The program will enable students to build a strong understanding of the legal fundamental concepts and theories. Students will learn about the history of laws in the United States and its application in today’s society.

In the first few semesters, students will go through important subject areas of law and will develop analytical, research, and writing skills. Some of the subjects covered in the curriculum have been mentioned below:

  • Contracts
  • Constitutional law
  • Torts
  • Criminal justice
  • Civil procedure
  • Democracy and coercion
  • Legal process and society

Further in the program, more advanced areas are covered. Apart from theoretical learning, the program will also entail case studies and research work. Students will learn how to apply various laws to real-life legal matters, and conduct legal research for cases. The exact curriculum of the degree will depend upon the law school offering the program.

Specialization options

  • Corporate law
  • Intellectual property law
  • International law
  • Family law
  • Employment law
  • Real estate law
  • Labor law
  • Tax law

There are also other law degrees offered by law schools. These include the Master of Laws (LL.M.) and the Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) degree.

Get a license

If you plan to practice in your state or any state, you must take the licensing examination known as the bar exam. Each state has its own requirements for taking the bar exam. Alongside having a law degree, applicants may be subject to a fitness and character review. The exam will test an applicant’s knowledge of legal principles and the state’s laws.

Start your career

After you have earned a license, you can seek associate-level jobs in law firms, or even start your own law firm.  Typically, lawyers start off their careers by working with more experienced lawyers or attorneys. On-the-job training and work experience is critical for advancement in this field. Your duties as a lawyer will depend upon your area of specialization and generally include:

  • Conducting research and analyzing legal problems
  • Preparing and filing legal documents
  • Interpreting laws
  • Preparing documentation for trials
  • Advising clients and representing them in courts

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, lawyers made a median annual income of $113,530 in 2012. The growth rate for this profession is 10% from 2012-22. Lawyers can also advance in their field by acquiring more qualifications and certifications. The career comes with challenges of its own, but reflects a positive employment outlook, making it a wise career choice.